This handmade colonial cottage is built from locally pit-sawn totara slabs and was home to Charles and Matilda (Tilly) Turner and their four children from the early 1880s until 1909. Their life was typical of early pioneering families; Charles felled bush and worked on the roads in the area whilst Tilly stayed at home raising their children and growing vegetables to feed the family and passing travellers.
Charles Turner was trained as a surveyor and was believed to have worked with Charles Heaphy, who mapped New Zealand settlements. His father brought the family out from London to settlein Auckland in 1861, and Charles was attracted to farming, and to Matilda, a local lass. The families objected to the relationship, and Charles went farming for his brother-in-law just out of Nelson. Matilda eventually joined him and they married in 1870.
The family was attracted to the Rai Valley, and to its potential. Charles and his brother cut an acre out of the forest and used the pit-sawn timber to build this house, with totara shingles for the roof and riverstones for the fireplace. For a decade the Turners and their children were the only occupants of the valley.
Charles worked as a bushman, and Tilly churned butter, made bread and welcomed travellers despite her frail stature. Both played instruments at local dances and weddings. As sawmills became estbalished in the area, the township of Carluke developed near the cottage.
The Turners sold up in 1909 and returned to Nelson. Locals have restored their pioneer cottage with orginal furniture and ornaments as a tribute to the family.